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Posted on 26. May 2011

DNA Doesn't Make Family

By Tammie Allegro

Families come together in many different ways. Sadly, many families in the immune globulin (IG) community have been torn apart by the trials of chronic illness, which can bring intense stress to the family dynamic. Oftentimes, IG Living readers say they find comfort in the company of people who aren’t biologically family.  Frequently, these relationships are built upon similar health challenges; shared experiences breed intimacy and trust.

From early on in my life, family was defined much differently than it was for everyone else I knew. I grew up in a time when the town I lived in was very conservative. People worked for companies for their entire careers, they stayed married and children were raised in a two-parent home. I wasn’t aware of any family that was like ours. My parents divorced when I was 2 and both of my parents remarried. I was adopted by my “Dad” and I changed my full name. My situation was so unique that the school actually had an assembly to discuss my adoption and subsequent name change.

Now, 30 years later, we know that things have changed dramatically. It is more common to be in a home with only one parent than one with two loving parents in their first marriage. So many families are blended with children from previous relationships and marriages. Today, family is about love and stability, not DNA. For some, family is the circle of friends they have surrounding them and supporting them.

Recently, our family was blessed to adopt a beautiful daughter. No, we didn’t go to an orphanage or an adoption agency. This beautiful girl is my daughter; the person doing the adopting was my husband. My daughter is 16, and we have been a family for seven years. Making things “official” made me reflect on the dynamic of the family. While, we didn’t need a piece of paper to tell us we were a family, that day meant more to me and my family than I can express in words. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the smiles on our faces that day speak volumes.

The bonds in a family begin with love and stay strong with commitment and mercy. For those with chronic illness, the sense of isolation often happens due to loved ones not understanding what they are going through. This is why many turn to support from the only people who truly do know their pain. They seek comfort in communities like ours filled with people who also are traveling their special and profoundly difficult path.  These shared experiences bring a sense of belonging that they might not have experienced ever in their lifetime.

Have you found “family” in support groups and friendships that you were missing in your life? Have you become that family for someone else? What do you do to support each other?

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